Ask the Editor – Book reviews and covering scandals


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, March 6th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. It’s time now for the March installment of Ask the Editor. This month WORLD Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky tackles five questions he often receives.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: This month I’ve grouped five questions regarding our process. 

Question: How does WORLD decide what to cover? 

Answer: We have two categories of stories, obligatory and discretionary. Obligatory stories are big national and international ones that everyone else is covering. If we ignore them, our readers will question our competence.  Discretionary stories are ones we don’t need to cover but we want to.  

We emphasize discretionary stories in seven categories, using an acronym LEAP For—we leap for good stories. The L is for Life (including abortion-related stories). E is for Education, A is for the Arts (including reviews of books, movies, TV, and music). P is for Poverty-fighting, F is for Family, O is from Origins, particularly the creation-evolution battle. R is for Religious Liberty.  LEAP FOR 

Question: How do you respond when your reporters say they have writer’s block? 

I think of writer’s block the way pilots learned to deal with the sound barrier: fly through it because it does not exist. When we feel blocked, we need to do more street-level reporting. 

Question: Do you read all those books you review?  

Yes, with one caveat. One way to read a lot is to enjoy slow baseball games on TV. I read during them and I can still look up and follow the action. A second way is to designate 10 pm to midnight as reading time. But here’s the confession: If I describe a book in a paragraph or more, I’ve read the whole thing. If I write only a sentence, it’s sometimes because I want readers to be aware of it, but I don’t guarantee I’ve read every page.  

Question: Why do you run a lot about some scandals and just a little on others. Do you cherry-pick which to cover and which to gloss over? 

A lot of different elements go into how much space we give to a particular piece of news, including: is a story national or local? But in general, we tend to go big when we can report new developments. We tend to be brief when we’re just repeating what others have already reported. 

Question: I’ve had columns published in many leading publications. Want to make me a World columnist? 

Thanks but no thanks. First, we have all the commentary we need: we’re investing in more reporting. Second, we have a promote-from-within strategy and have hired five young reporters since the summer of 2018: We want to give them time and space, affording opportunity to move up. We would send the wrong message if we hired a star from outside. 

I’m Marvin Olasky.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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